On Monday, the Russian Security Council called on President Vladimir Putin to recognize the independence of two Russian-backed separatist regions in eastern Ukraine, in a move that could give him a pretext to invade Ukraine, especially after Moscow’s allegations that Kiev’s forces are attacking those regions.
Ukrainian officials on Monday denied the attacks, saying the allegations were Russian disinformation. Western officials repeatedly warned that Moscow was making a reason for the invasion.
Putin is likely to make a decision later Monday.
All members of Putin’s hardline Security Council supported the recognition of two regions, calling themselves the Donetsk People’s Republic and the Luhansk People’s Republic, where about 800,000 Russians live.
Putin called the extraordinary meeting of the Security Council after accusing Ukraine of committing “genocide” in the regions last week, without providing evidence.
The Security Council includes Putin’s hard-line military, security and intelligence leaders, who have emerged as a major source of advice according to Russian political analysts, as well as Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin and heads of Russia’s top and bottom parties. Houses of Parliament.
The Donetsk People’s Republic and Luhansk People’s Republic are a major flashpoint in the conflict between Ukraine and Russia, and the scene of fighting between Ukrainian forces and separatists that has claimed 14,000 lives since 2014.
The decision to recognize them would affect the 2015 Minsk Peace Agreement brokered by France and Germany, which was intended to return the two regions to Kiev’s control.
One by one, Security Council officials urged Putin to recognize the regions, arguing that Kiev was trying to “freeze” the conflict in eastern Ukraine, preventing a solution and letting Russia cover the costs of the regions.
Putin said it was clear that Ukraine had no intention of implementing the Minsk agreement, which requires Kiev to pass laws granting the regions autonomy.
Kiev officials say such laws would allow Moscow to use the breakaway regions as leverage over Ukraine’s foreign policy and veto its pro-Western stance.
Latvian Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkevix told the Washington Post that Russian recognition of the breakaway territories could achieve several Russian goals. “It seems that they have given up hope in Kiev, and they are taking what they can,” he said.
This is a “frozen conflict, and NATO and the European Union will not allow entry to Ukraine anytime soon,” he said, if the status of the eastern territories was in doubt. This would put significant political pressure on Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, which could lead to his proposed overthrow and a weaker and more divided Kiev.
And because it wouldn’t amount to a full-blown invasion, Rinkevix said, he might stop the most dangerous Western sanctions against Russia, though he said he supported tougher sanctions against the Kremlin in response to his actions.
It’s a “full plate,” said Rinkevix. “Whole pig breakfast.”
Putin said that Russia had done everything to resolve the situation peacefully, but that the Ukrainian authorities had “carried out punitive military operations in these territories” in the past and were doing so again.
Security Council Deputy Chairman Dmitry Medvedev said Moscow should protect Russians living in the regions, after Moscow began handing out Russian passports to Ukrainians living there in recent years.
Michael Birnbaum contributed this story from Washington.
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